Microsoft Embraces Coopetition with Vista Launch

With all the press hoopla over the launch of Microsoft Vista (including Bill Gate’s appearance on The Daily Show, in which Jon Stewart asked hard hitting technology questions like, “Do you use ‘flying toasters’ as your screen saver?”), I haven’t seen much coverage from the application perspective, and browsing the Vista web pages I found something which I feel is much more significant than how many consumers buy Vista in the first 24 hours.

On one of the main Vista Web pages, the line “Here are just some of the ways to get more ‘Wow’ at home or at work” is followed by a list of partner technologies that offer tight interoperability with Vista. And lo and behold, who did I find listed there with the likes of Canon, HP and Intuit? FrontRange Solutions, maker of Goldmine CRM.

MS Vista Website promoting partner FrontRange

Not only does FrontRange have star billing, but they have their own Goldmine page on the MS site giving screenshots from Goldmine and a link to the vendor’s own Website.

There must be some grumbling going on in Redmond, WA, as one of Goldmine’s chief competitors for mid-market CRM is Microsoft itself, with MS CRM. Why did Microsoft choose to promote a competing product instead of their own? I’ll give you 2 reasons:

* Better adherence to .NET standards. FrontRange has been rebuilding their applications from the ground up on a pure .NET platform, starting first with their popular IT service desk product, ITSM, and they are about to release a new enterprise edition of Goldmine on the same platform. Having spent some time with the Goldmine development staff, they are serious about leveraging every bell and whistle in the .NET toolbox to make their apps sleeker, faster and more intuitive. My guess is Goldmine showcases MS technology better than MS CRM.

* 3rd party partners give Vista more credibility. I know people like to take jabs at Microsoft for building both infrastructure and applications, but giving visibility to FrontRange shows that MS realizes having ‘best of breed’ 3rd party application vendors embracing their infrastructure gives MS more credibility than just touting their own applications.

Still, I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when the head of MS CRM found out Goldmine was the CRM product being highlighted in the Vista launch!

Curious for more information, I reached out to FrontRange and was able to connect yesterday with Kevin Smith, VP of Products for FrontRange. (Major props to Kevin who took my call while in Europe on a business trip at close to midnight his time.) It turns out that FrontRange has been involved with the Vista launch for some time, including participating in the Vista launch and presentations at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas recently. (I would have known that except the CES refused to accept my speaking abstract so I didn’t get to go!) It turns out MS invited them to participate at no cost to FrontRange. In fact, Kevin sent me a snapshot he grabbed from the CES show that illustrates the extent of cobranding between the companies at the show.
MS Vista and GoldMine CoBranding at CES

As a frequent Vegas visitor to speak at tradeshows, I’m thrilled to see Vegas cabs advertising anything other than tired Cirque du Soleil shows and the Botox frozen face of Lance Burton.

Based on our 2006 Technology Survey, SSPA Research predicts that small and medium sized technology companies will spend at least $309 million on CRM in 2007–more than twice the CRM spending of >$1B tech companies–and midmarket companies interested in a .NET CRM product should give Goldmine a look, with its mulitple versions (Standard, Corporate, Premium, and the new Enterprise edition) targetting different sized businesses, and an OnDemand offering in the works (hosting options available now). With 150,000 companies and 1.7 million users currently using Goldmine, you can likely find a reference customer locally to talk to. Maybe the sales and marketing modules get most of the press, but this company does understand customer service, in fact their CEO Michael McClosky has served as CEO of Kana and President and Director of Genesys Telecom.

 I will admit that so far I don’t have much detail on Vista (other than a fantastic demo at the SSPA Fall Leadership Conference by Richard Kaplan, Microsoft Vice President, Customer Service, Partners and Automation), but I like the idea of more interoperability between enterprise applications.  With financial services customer support agents juggling dozens of different desktop applications to find all the customer account information across various systems, clearly finding a way to streamline data access at the UI level is important to further improvements in agent productivity.

Please let me know if you have any comments on Vista, FrontRange, CES, or anything else for that matter. 😉

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